Friday, February 22, 2008

Heading Home

As the trip was nearing an end, what could I bring home for the family guys as souvenirs. After a lot of though, how bout genuine Rolex watch's. So over to the street venders and a deal was struck. Back at the hospital, all the girls came in to see what a great deal I got and told me I would never get them thru customs. But I learned a long time ago, never say never.

Too soon it was time to leave. This was the fastest 7 weeks I have ever seen except for the airplane ride which I thought would never end. As we were packing all the new friends Linda and I made came to see us off and wish us well and it was hard to say good by. Diana had the van outside to take us to the airport and a group was waiting outside to say good by. After a lot of hugs we were off to the airport and back to the real world. Diana came in with us and pointed us in the right direction and it was time to say good by to her. All the staff and doctors at the hospital were just great, but I built a special bond with Diana and when I say I wanted to put her in my suitcase and bring her home, it was only half in jest.

But the world moves on and after check in we were on the plane for the never ending ride back. Going, the plane was only half full and there was room to stretch, but coming back it was full and we were packed in like sardines. After a lifetime we were back in San Francisco and on to the dreaded customs check. On the airplane we were given a form to fill out on what we were bring back and I put a few things on it but wondered what to do about the suitcase full of Rolex watch's I was smuggling in. Well I thought I would just play it by ear. Now these custom guys are taught how to weed out shifty looking characters, so I just looked causal and hoped for the best. I must have passed the test because after eyeing me up and down, he told us to pass, but did make the comment about how nice our new genuine North Face jackets were. Now going, we had to walk all over the airport and Linda had a hard time doing that and I had to carry her carry on bag and she had to stop and rest often. On the way back, we had to walk twice as far because they kept changing our departure gate, and Linda was able to keep up and carry her own bag besides. After a short flight on a small prop plane that bounced all over the sky like a yoyo, we were met at the Sacramento airport by David and after a stop at Subway to fill up we are home. Barry and Katie brought Rocky over and at first he seemed confused but after a sniff he was trying to climb up me like a ladder and out came the slobber. Than he checked out Linda and he was back home.

We went to bed, but at 3 AM I was wide awake, so I went to the grocery store to stock up and thought if I could keep this seclude, it would be great because I had the whole store to myself and no traffic. It's good to be home.

John and Linda in California

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Winding Down

Wed morning and the time is getting short. Just about everything they can do for Linda has now been done and it's time for the little cell buggers to do their job. There is a big improvement that can be seen already, but the really big improvement will be seen over the coming months . For the last week or so Linda has been complaining about her vision. The last couple of years her vision has been going down hill as part of PD. The eye communicates with the brain using dopamine and as the PD advances the vision gets weaker. So for the last week Linda tells me when we get home she has to go and get an eye exam and get stronger glasses. So she is sitting in the chair and takes her glasses off and rubs her eyes, than before putting her glasses back on she looks around and exclaims I can see better without my glasses than with them. Now what do you think that means.

Here in China phoney money is everywhere. The 100 YUAN bill is what is exchanged most. And it is the bill most copied. When something is bought at the store the clerk taking the money exams it in detail before putting it in the register because if it comes in on their watch they have to cough up for any bad bill. So yesterday Diana took me to the airline office to get our flight changed. To leave early there is an 80 dollar charge to change the tickets. So I pull out 2 100 dollar bills to pay for it and the airline people tell me they can't take American money, only Chinese. I have been cutting back on the Chinese money because we are coming home soon so I only had 8 100 YUAN bills and I need 12. so Diana says take 4 of hers than we can go to the bank and get more. So I take 4 of hers and hand the clerk 12 bills. With a sharp eye she counts them and gives me back one telling me it is no good. Well hell, I tell Diana to give her another one and this one is no good either. So Diana gets really pissed and starts on a rant that she just got paid from the hospital and that's where that money came from and she makes so little and they pay her in phoney bills. I have seen this before, a pissed Chinese woman is a sight to behold. So I eat one of the phoney bills and she eats the other. Than when we go to the bank she demands a lesson on how to tell if a bill is good. I bet that is the last phoney bill someone passes on her.

Our Chinese adventure is coming to an end and soon back to the real world. I am really enjoying China and the people here and will be sorry to leave all the friends we have made here, from the guy who sells me fruit to the street vendors to the wonderful people here at the hospital. We still have a few days here so we are going to enjoy it to the max. Tonight a bunch of us are going to Grandma's again for a taste of home and have a good time.

See you all soon, john and linda in China

Monday, February 18, 2008

Getting Ready To Go Home

Linda is over to TCM guys getting treatment of some sort. She is still feeling pretty good and looks good. I think we can leave on Fri of this week and get back to San Francisco on Fri of this week. We lost a day on the way over and will pick it up on the way back. I really like it here, love the people and feel right at home, but it's time to get back to our real life's.

Yesterday we wanted to pick up some souvenirs to take back home so I went to see the street vendors again. As I said before these guys are like sharks in the water and as soon as you make eye contact they smell blood. Well I saw a few things I wanted to buy and take home but how do you deal with them. So here is a plan I worked out you all can use if you ever come here. If you show any interest in an item, they say 200. No that's too much and start to walk away. They follow and start lowering the price. Now this is no secret, everyone knows that. But what did they pay. So you go to another guy and get the best deal you can on just one item from him and in your heart you know he still got to you. Now you take the one item you just bought and when the next guy comes at you, you say no and keep on walking. But they don't take no for an answer. So you take out the one you just bought and tell him you will sell him that one. He laughs and says how much, you say 200 and he laughs tells you how you just got taken. But you keep the pressure on him to buy yours and he gets mad and to show you how smart he is and how dumb you are he says he can get all he wants for 10. Than you say good, I will give you 15 each for all those. So on every transaction, there are the watchers. Well they all start to laugh at him and he gives in, making a little and you go your way while the rest of the vendors try to sell you more. But enough is enough and off you go.

Last night Diana was going to a friends house for dinner and asked Linda and me if we wanted to go along. We said sure and she called and asked if she could bring along a couple of Americans. Well OK, but not too enthused. Turns out this guy's name was also John and he was from AZ. he is 35 and has lived in China for 13 years now. He is married to a 23 year old Chinese woman. There were about 20 people there, all Chinese except Linda and I. His wife and her mother must have been cooking all week because the table had so much food of all kinds and looked mouth watering. Also, John brought out some Chinese Liqueur of some sort that looked like Kentucky moonshine and was so potent a little sip took your breath away. John explained to me that it was bad insults not to drink what your host poured for you in China. So as not to offend the host, I had my fair share. Soon as everyone else had their fair share the room became quite lively. And I found out much to my delight that although only Chinese was being spoken, I knew everything that was going on and when someone told a joke I understood the punch line and laughed just as loud as anyone in the room. This must be the stuff they pass out on the star ship Enterprise as a universal translator. When the meal is finished, no one leaves the table, they all just sit and chat for how ever long they feel like it. And pick at the food left with their chopsticks. And continual not to offend the host. All too soon it was time to go, so as we started to pack up John came with his camera for pics. He told me when Diana asked to bring a couple of friends he didn't think it was a good idea because we would feel left out and strange. But we got along so good with everyone he was glad we came. I told him I would probably never see him again, but I would never forget that night. So we left with that warm feeling only the universal translator can give.

A new patient just checked into the hospital today. Mike and Caroline from North Carolina. Mike is 68 and has the PD for years now. I don't know if I will see much of him as we have nothing in common at all. Mike likes to go to old car swap meets, collect old cars, has a few and also has a 1957 tbird. So what could we possibly talk about. But I may make an exception in case and talk a little with him. Caroline helps him pull engines under a tree. He reads the Early Bird from cover to cover.

john and linda in China

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lumbar Injection Rev. 2

Linda is back from her procedure and must lay flat for 6 hrs. She said the actual injection hurt a little but not too bad. Now the only thing bothering her is having to use the bed pan because she must not even rise her head. No discomfort laying in bed except boredom. Today everyone who was on the schedule received the injection assembly line style. Everyone else will get a series of 3 or 4 injections a week apart, Linda just gets one because she received the brain operation. Tomorrow the whole staff of doctors will make rounds and see how Linda is doing and make a decision on how much longer we must stay, but the time is getting shorter.

We have not seen a lot of Beijing because Linda has been hooked to the iv's everyday and I did not want to leave her alone all day so we have talked of coming back next year and doing all of China. I do take the bike out and leave for a few hours at a time but as care giver I have to stay close. The hospital does not provide meals although someone does come around to ask about take out from the restaurants around the area. But you must be alert or you have no idea what's coming back. So I go out shopping and bring back food either we cook here or eat raw.

Sat Morning I better write and let everyone know what is going on, I didn't report on how Linda did after the last injection. Linda came out better than ever, but I spent yesterday going around and checking and talking to the other patients who received the treatment. I should have dashed off a note but I didn't. So after Linda came back and had to lay still for 6 hrs, she just sat around after the 6 hrs were up. But yesterday morning she woke up full of piss and vinegar and wanted to head out and conquer the world. Jumped right out of bed and started her exercises she does every morning and was thrilled to see her balance was good as ever. She did things she had not been able to do for months. So as she was making all the plans what to do, Amy came in and checked her out and said she was not to leave the room because Amy did not want the cells to go bad. Well hell, here Linda now has all this pent up energy and has to sit in the room all day. But she did manage that. This morning she is up and still feels great. As the day goes on we will see if this is real or what.

There are a few interesting cases here. Two that Lynn would be interested in. They both have Parkinson ism.This is Parkinson's that medication has no effect on. The German woman who is in her 50's started showing symptoms about 7 years ago. For 5 years she wasn't too bad, but about 2 years ago she started to go down hill pretty fast. Now she can't walk but a few steps and is in a wheel chair. She has had 2 injections now and it is too early to see any difference. The man is 68 and again it is too early to tell the outcome. Another 66 year old woman from England had DBS done 6 years ago. The effect of the DBS had now worn off, her husband has set the impulses as high as it can go and it has no effect. She has had 2 lumbar injections now and we are waiting to see what the results are. One man is 75, he was vice president of an engineering firm and wrote a book that is the standard of the industry and is in it's 4 printing. He has PD and early stage Alzheimer's. I want to follow up on these cases too see the outcome. I better get this off so we can share the good news.

john and linda in China

Lumbar Injection Rev. 1

Well they just came with a gurney and hauled Linda away for the lumbar injection of stem cells in the spinal fluid. The hospital is in full operation again after the new years holidays. For a day or two we have kicked around if we should do this additional operation and decided as long as we are here lets get it done. I guess in for a penny, in for a dollar. What this is supposed to do is insert stem cells into the spinal fluid and that carriers the cells into the brain and floods the brain with stem cells that can reach places the brain surgery may have missed. Linda is the only patient here that is having both procedures done. All the others have had only the spinal fluid done. What they tell me is that only the patients that are in good enough shape to start with get the brain injection, but it took them 3 weeks to get Linda into that kind of shape. She had all kinds of little things wrong they had to fix before they could do the first operation. So she should come back a new woman. But still it takes 9 months for the cells to grow and reach the full benefit.

Last night 4 parkies and their others and Diana went to a restaurant called Grandma Kitchen. Steve you will remember that one. If you took up a small restaurant anywhere in the American Midwest and plunked it down in Beijing it would look the same. I got a hamburg that was as good as any I could get at home. Linda got a BLT and finally some root beer. She has been looking for root bear ever since we got here and last night she was able to quench her thirst. And than she topped that off with a chocolate ice cream Sunday with a cherry on top. So today she is ready for anything.

When she comes back I will update this and let you know how she is doing.

john and linda in China

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Chinese New Year

Being that this is the new year going on and there are festivals going on at most of the temples, we asked the nurse if we could start Linda's iv's later and go out to the festival before. They said no problem so we walked to the Temple of Heaven. This temple was built in 1420, that's before Columbus was even born. When we got there people had already filled the place from end to end. The grounds here are pretty big. The book says 2,700,000 square meters. Remember, an acer is 45,000 square ft. So what they were doing is setting the scene for the Emperor to go on a stroll. Now this guy can't just get up and go out to check the weather, what ever he does has to be a big deal. First comes a bunch of guys with whips to make way. Than followed by about 400 guys with banners in case no one knew who he was. Than another 4 or 5 hundred guys with pikes and swords. Than a few hundred with feathers waving, than more beating drums and gongs and trumpets and than and only than the Emperor comes riding in a chair carried on the shoulders of 10 or so guys. So he gets out, sticks his finger in the air and says it's cold and they all turn around and go back in. We spent about 3 hrs there and had a really good time. I took video's of the whole thing, I being tall could hold my camera over my head and get some good shots of it but the short Chinese could not see a thing, so they all crowded around my camera and looked at the screen to see what was going on. Pretty funny.

Than back to the hospital and the iv's. Linda seems about the same today, not much change but not any back sliding either. After the IV's are done we will go out again and walk. We are walking a couple of hrs a day now and I think that is helping Linda get stronger. Just about all the rooms here are filled now, but I find it strange that all the people don't get together to see what is happening with the other patients. I go around and see how the other patients are doing but no one else does that. Most of them just stay in their rooms the whole time. I make the rounds to see what their symptoms are and how they are doing, but I don't see any one else doing that. When I do go for a visit every one seems happy to see me, but we all don't get together for a gab fest.

Every one should be back by the 14 th, than we can have a meeting and see what they say about Linda getting the lumbar. Either we can come home than or stay longer for more treatment. I talk to Lorna every night and outside of our dog pooping in their new house, every thing seems to be running smooth. I really do feel bad about our dog's bad habits, I told Lorna to keep him outside till he learns the difference. Lorna goes over and feeds the fish in the mornings and Barry and Katie go over in the evening and feed them again. I am so going to owe them big time when we get back. Linda and I are so lucky to have the family support we have. All four of our kids are just the greatest.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

OK Dottie

OK Dottie, you got me out of my slump. Linda is still doing about the same. Right now she is hooked up to the tubes and will be for the next few hours. For the last few days, as soon as she is set free we both take about an hour walk. The day before yesterday we were out and we were going shopping, so we were going thru one of the stores when nature called on Linda. Now the Ladies rooms here would make all you proper ladies back home cringe. What you have is a hole in the floor that you squat over and let go. I am not sure how that works because I haven't witnessed it first hand, but just from a scientific point of view, I would like to see it just once. Also, they don't provide paper and you must carry your own to use. than, you can't put your paper into the hole in the ground, you put the used paper into a basket next to the hole. So for some reason, Linda didn't want to use that. For us spoiled westerners they provide western style toilets and Linda is glad for that. But we were there and the toilet was here, so double time back to our room. And for all you guys laughing out there, the guys have the same hole in the ground, but you have to stand and aim, and not every one is a good shot.

After we were here for 5 weeks my hair started to look like a haystack. So in my travels I kept my eyes open for a barber shop. I noticed all the guys had nice trimmed hair so they must go somewhere. I asked Diana about that and she said she would have a barber come here. But I wanted to do the Chinese thing and get one where the rest of the guys go. So as I would ride my bike around I looked for a place to get a hair cut. Now remember that word, haircut. All I saw were beauty shops and they looked like the ones back home so I stopped at one and walked in and pointed to my hair. The woman nodded and had me take off my coat, laid me down and washed my hair. Than sat me up in a chair and I guess she was asking how I wanted it. I saw a guy walking outside with normal hair, so I pointed to him and than to my head. She said Ah and started to cut. Or should I say sculpt. She didn't cut my hair, she cut each hair by it's self until she had what she liked, and it looked damm good. Linda said that's the best hair cut I ever had. Just before we come home I am going back there and than first thing before it grows out show my barber how I want it from now on.

The other day I rode the bike to the store and picked up some stuff. When you park your bike here there is a long row of bikes and you put yours in where there is a space. So when I came out I put the grocery's in the front basket and started to put my gloves on. Well the extra weight in the front basket caused the front wheel to turn and the bike fell over. As it fell it knocked the bike next to it over and the next and in slow motion about 100 bikes fell over. It looked like something I saw once on TV outside a Harley bar. Now there is no such thing as not being noticed in China. The population of Beijing is 30 million people and they must of all been there that morning. So I stood there frozen not believing what I had just done. I could see smiles all over the place and everyone just stood there to see what I was going to do about it. Well you have to start somewhere, so I picked my bike up and stood it up than went to the end of the line and started to pick each one back up and than the next. The crowd saw the show was over so they started to move on again. When people here move on it is like a big river moving along. If any part of it stops the whole city comes to a stand still, so it was a good thing they started moving again. This river of people meshes with the river of cars on the street and no one stops, but they all intertwine and against all laws of nature, it works.

This is enough for a while, Linda is almost done with the iv's for today, so I think we are heading out.

john and linda in China